Flu Season 2017: Medical Supplies Shortage Could Leave U.S. With Deadly Pandemic

A flu pandemic will have severe consequences in America as the country relies on global trade for medical supplies. Lincon Zarbietti/AFP/Getty Images

The flu season is starting, and it could turn deadly due to America's lack of preparation. Healthcare experts believe an influenza pandemic will seriously harm the health of Americans—and not because of the infections themselves.

Related: Flu Shot Effectiveness Boosted by Listening to Your Favorite Song, Researchers Find

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota tells Newsweek that the United States relies on foreign trade for many medical needs. About 30 essential items, these include hospital supplies like IV bags and everyday drugs, are made outside of the U.S. A pandemic in India or China could keep people home from work, which would impact manufacturing.

"If anything happens to disrupt the supply, we wouldn't have any of it," Osterholm asserts. "We would suddenly see a tremendous amount of collateral damage," he warns, stressing that it's not the flu infection itself that could be deadly, but rather the consequences that follow. "The flu will accentuate all of the other health problems that we have."

This latest warning on a potential pandemic was made during a webinar on a potential pandemic hosted by the Association of Health Care Journalists and reported by The Augusta Chronicle. Talks of a looming pandemic are fueled by the concern over a particular influenza strain, H7N9, The Augusta Chronicle reports. Found in poultry, H7N9 has infected 764 people in the last flu season, according to a report issued September 13, 2017 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The disease is currently passed from animals, and only very rarely spread between humans, making it less of a concern for now. However, epidemiologist Sonja Olsen, of the CDC, told The Augusta Chronicle it would only take a few mutations for it to become an issue.

There's no need to panic. The current risk level is low, and the United States works with the World Health Organization and other global entities to monitor the H7N9 virus. But health experts warn that now is the best time for a country to develop a backup plan to account for drug shortages if, or when, a pandemic occurs.

"This administration does not have a team in place to deal with that, in my estimation," Olsen told The Augusta Chronicle. "This is going to take a big team." He explains the Obama years weren't any better.

The 2017 flu season is expected to be serious, and as every year, public health experts encourage everyone to get their shots early.